SEARCY, Ark. – An Arkansas law could become the model for the country when it comes to recognizing parents of stillborn children.
On January 31, Senator Tom Cotton reintroduced legislation that, if passed, would provide parents with miscarriages 20 or more weeks into a pregnancy federal tax credits equal to a child tax credit and 12 weeks unpaid leave. Those would apply nationwide for the year the child would have been born.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. That includes over 300 in Arkansas. One of those babies was Paisley Havranek who died four years ago on February 6, 2019.
Heather Havranek is the mother of Paisley and gave her first on-camera interview about Paisley Friday.
“We all picked out a name together, got the nursery together, and not one second do you think, ‘Oh maybe I should put some money back in case I have to plan a funeral,” Havranek admitted.
She was 39 weeks pregnant, and on the day between her last check-up and when she was to be inducted, Havranek realized she no longer felt Paisley moving.
Going into the hospital early, she quickly realized something was not right. A doctor told her Paisley was stillborn due to amniotic band syndrome where an inner layer of tissue wrapped around Paisley’s umbilical cord. After her delivery, there was no help from the state or federal government.
“One day before she died, she was a perfect, fully formed, beautiful little girl, but she’s not recognized as a dependent at that point,” Les Eaves (R), Arkansas state representative for District 58 explained.
Eaves is Paisley’s granddad. To help future parents he introduced Paisley’s law in 2021. It gives parents a $500 tax credit if their baby dies in the womb at or after the 20th week of pregnancy. It passed unanimously in both houses.
Thursday, Eaves filed a second bill that would increase Arkansas tax credit to $1500. Senator Tom Cotton introduced a bill to mirror Paisley’s on the federal level in 2021, but it didn’t make any movement. On the last day of January, he reintroduced it with more sponsors from over half a dozen states
“Should Senator Cotton’s bill become law, that’s a huge deal. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t become law in the past. It seems like such a common sense thing to do,” Eaves said.
If the federal bill passes, Arkansas parents would receive benefits in both their state and federal taxes.
“It does make me proud to be her mom,” Havranek said. “She’s leaving a legacy that’s meaningful.”
When Cotton’s office was asked what prevented him from passing his act the first time he introduced it in late 2021, a spokesman said it is a matter of building up support and gaining more sponsors for the bill.